“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” -- Deepak Chopra
When it comes to meditation, I don’t believe there is a superior path. It’s up to each individual to make that decision. There are millions of meditations out there. However, in this article, I’ve highlighted five techniques that have been important to me in my life, and will hopefully be of interest and use to you too.
“The only conversion involved in Vipassana is from misery to happiness, from bondage to liberation.” -- S.N Goenka
I recently spent 10 days in a silent Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreat in Hereford where I couldn’t talk, use my phone or have any contact with the outside world. My days consisted of practising mindfulness and meditation for 10 hours every day and learning about the practice that resulted in Buddha’s enlightenment.
Vipassana is a Pali word which basically means ‘to see reality as it is’. The technique isn’t a light and fluffy way to relieve stress and relax while imagining you’re thoughts are like passing clouds on a clear blue sky. It’s more like meditation boot camp. It’s a method that involves delving deep into the mind and can at times be painful.
Practise Vipassana meditation if:
● You’re mentally stable
● You want a deeper meditation practice
● You’re interested in how the process of meditation works
● You’re not afraid to confront pain and experience some discomfort
More information about Vipassana:
If you’re interested in deeper forms of meditation, I highly recommend trying one of the 10 day retreats which take place all over the world. You can also read a more in depth article about my experience of practising Vipassana.
“In yoga nidra, we restore our body, senses, and mind to their natural function and awaken a seventh sense that allows us to feel no separation, that only sees wholeness, tranquility, and well-being.” -- Richard Miller PhD
Yoga Nidra, in my opinion, is one of the best meditations you can do to relieve stress instantly and go into an incredibly deep state of relaxation.
You don’t need to have practised this method of meditation for years to ‘get it’ -- the feeling is pretty much instant. The only criticism I have of yoga nidra is that, it’s so pleasant, you have to be careful not to start craving the feeling of bliss.
The technique involves lying on your back whilst listening to a voice guide you through a variety of meditation techniques including body scanning and visual guided imagery.
Practise Yoga Nidra if:
● You are looking for instant relaxation and stress relief
● You want a quick ‘pick me up’ technique
● You want to plant specific goals (using Sankalpas) deep into your subconscious
● You have insomnia or trouble falling asleep
More information about Yoga Nidra:
For more information, I’d start by reading Yoga Nidra by Richard Miller PhD, which comes with a CD. However, if you want to get going straight away, I recommend Yoga Nidra - Healing Meditation
3. Open Heart Meditation
“Open Heart Meditation™ is a remarkably simple, yet effective, heart-based practice that is centered on ‘feeling’ rather than on brain-oriented visualizations or breathing techniques, making this practice purely experiential.” -- Padmacahaya
There are lots of heart based meditations out there. However, Open Heart Meditation was the first one I tried at the Lotus Centre in Hobart Tasmania in 2010. I’m not sure if it was down to the teacher being great, or what was going on in my life at the time, but this is one of the deepest life changing meditations I’ve ever done.
This meditation pretty much changed my worldview and is the reason I’m so fascinated in meditation. Forgiveness, letting go and opening the heart, lie at the centre of the technique.
Practise Open Heart Meditation if:
● You want to forgive either yourself or others
● You have baggage to let go of
● You want to open your heart
● You have found third eye or more ‘mind’ focused meditations difficult
More information about Open Heart Meditation:
For more information and links to guided heart based meditations, go to the Open Heart Meditation website. You could also search of ‘Loving Kindness Meditation’ which is a buddhist heart based practice.
4. Lucid dreaming
“Lucid dreaming shows us how to make friends with illusion while we sleep, so that we can be free from illusion when we wake.” -- Charlie Morley
Along with the Open Heart meditation, lucid dreaming transformed the way I saw the world. I’d had vague experiences as a child of being able to control my dreams, but nothing as intense as my first real lucid dream.
About four years ago, I went to a talk by lucid dreaming teacher and Buddhist, Charlie Morley, then read the book Counting Sheep, which really inspired me to train myself to be able to lucid dream.
When you’re lucid dreaming, you become conscious of the fact that you’re in a dream, and you actually use more of your brain when you’re in this state, than you do in waking life. Many athletes now use lucid dreaming as a way of improving their physical performance. Practising in their lucid dreams actually helps to improve their performance in waking life.
Practise Lucid Dreaming if:
● You are interested in consciousness
● You want to have fun
● You want to resolve issues using your dreams
● You want to increase your performance in a sport or other activity using your dreams
More information about lucid dreaming:
5.The Wim Hof Method
“We can do more than we think we can” -- Wim Hof
This technique was developed by Wim Hof -- also known as the Iceman, who is a world record breaker and adventurer, able to run marathons across snow, wearing nothing but shorts.
Hof is essentially able to activate his autonomic nervous system and have control over his body’s temperature and immune system -- something that was previously thought to be impossible.
I practised the Wim Hof Method course for 10 weeks over the Summer of 2015 which involved a mix of physical exercises based on yoga asanas, breathing techniques, meditation and cold exercises. Essentially, this is probably one of the most exhilarating practises I’ve ever done.
Practise the Wim Hof Method if:
● You are looking for a practice that helps to improve physical, mental and spiritual health.
● You’re looking for a challenge
● You want to feel more inner power and strength
● You want more energy in day to day life
More information about the Wim Hof Method:
I wish you all the best of luck, with whichever meditation practice you choose to do. If you have any questions, or you’d like to suggest a meditation practise that isn’t featured here, please leave a comment below.
Clare is a London based yoga and meditation teacher, and owner of the site Thought Brick.